PokerStars Isle of Man combines chess and poker

by Albert Silver
10/7/2014 – The PokerStars Isle of Man Tournament kicked off at the Villa Marina on Douglas’ seafront with players from seventeen countries participating in the myriad tournaments. By virtue of the sponsor, a number of activities involving original combinations of chess and poker are also there, with top players of both modalities. Here is a report with video, and pictures by Alina L'Ami.

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The beautiful tournament hall Villa Marina

As if frozen in time, the Isle of Man reflect old world beauty

This tournament marks the return of a top-level international tournament to the Isle of Man after a long gap and what a return it is! Out of the 73 participants, no fewer than 56 are title holders, while the top eight seeds are all members of the world’s top 100.

There are also a number of very strong women players, headed by
GM Harika Dronavalli (2528) from India

The top seed of the tournament is none other than Michael Adams (2758), the UK’s top grandmaster and world number twelve. Second and third seeds are the Frenchmen Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (2757) and Laurent Fressinet (2713). Besides Mickey Adams, the tournament also sees the participation of five other members of England’s Top 10: Gawain Jones, Nigel Short, Mark Hebden and of course David Howell and Jonathan Hawkins, the current British Champions.

Mickey Adams, world no. 12, is the top seed in the tournament

2014 French champion Laurent Fressinet is another of the top players

GM Gawain Jones

GM Sergey Tiviakov

Last but not least, as this tournament is sponsored by PokerStars, it should be noted that two of the tournament’s participants hold the highest PokerStars rank of Supernova Elite, namely GM Radoslaw Jedynak and IM Simon Ansell. Supernova Elite is a status achieved by virtue of the volume of play done on the servers in a twelve month period, and win or lose, it means a very large amount of money was wagered during that period. To give an idea, you would need to play in 20-25 thousand tournaments with a $100 buy-in to qualify.

Among the players who enjoy both games is WGM Jennifer Shahade who
is also served as a consultant and is a PokerStars Mind Sports Ambassador

The festivities started with the first ever "Simultaneous Chess & Poker" event in which Jennifer Shahade took on three opponents at chess and three opponents at poker, scoring an impressive 5-1, with only Norway’s Baard Dahl being able to beat her in their poker heads up duel. Jennifer’s other two poker opponents were France’s Alexandre Dreyfus and Denmark’s Mickey Petersen. The “chess team” consisted of tournament Chairman Alan Ormsby, Committee member Zahed Miah and professional poker player Isaac Haxton.

The event started with a unique chess and poker simul by Jennifer Shahade, with three boards
of chess and three of poker! She destroyed them all, except for one loss in poker.


A video report of the simul by PokerNews. As will be evident, Jen knows how to put on a show
- emulating Speedy Gonzales when switching from one board to another.

The handshake and resignation

After the fun “Simultaneous Chess & Poker” event, things started getting serious for the chess/poker players in what was the first ever official chess and poker combination tournament to be held (and what is more, part of the official UKIPT schedule) the players were first going to battle it out during five rounds of blitz chess, before heading to the Royal Hall in order to switch to No Limit Hold’Em poker. The default stack for the poker tournament was 8000 chips, but every win in the chess portion was worth another 1000 chips, while a draw was worth 500 more chips.

Wife and husband Almira Skripchenko and Laurent Fressinet play in the blitz. He may have
the upperhand in chess, but Almira is the unquestioned queen should they meet in poker.

Armenian GM Gabriel Sargissian

This event attracted a total of 24 players, including the top three seeded players from the chess tournament (Michael Adams, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Laurent Fressinet. The chess portion was dominated by Vachier-Lagrave and Fressinet, with both finishing on 4.5/5. Daniel Fridman, Mark Hebden and Radoslaw Jedynak followed them on 4.0/5, while Mickey Adams surprisingly only scored 3.0/5, as he lost to both Frenchmen, who will more than likely also be his main rivals in the “real” tournament.

After a welcome 30-minute break the players then moved to the magnificent Royal Hall, in which the main event of the UKIPT was still under way. By some coincidence GMs Adams, Vachier-Lagrave, Hebden, Williams and Gormally were all allocated to the same table, undoubtedly making this the highest rated poker table in history!

The highest rated poker table in history

The tables kicked off at around 9.30pm and with 15-minute levels and all players eager to make it into the top five, it promised to be a long and eventful night. For those who do not play poker, 15-minute levels means that every fifteen minutes the minimum bets go up, forcing the action go forward, and players with large stacks to make bets that even they will be cautious about over time.

Laurent Fressient examining the "position" from all possible angles

In the end, it came down to GM Mark Hebden who made it to the heads up (last two), only losing out to PokerStars’ Baard Dahl, who also happens to be a very strong chessplayer and will be competing in the Masters group of the chess event. This made Norway’s Baard Dahl the first winner of an official combined chess and poker event in history.

The Isle of Man is incredibly photogenic

A breathtaking sunset

The Masters tournament in which the grandmasters are all playing in is scheduled for nine rounds from October 4-12, played at 100 minutes for 40 moves, followed by 50 minutes for 20 moves, then 15 minutes for the remaining moves, with 30 seconds added per move from the start.

Standings after four rounds

Rk SNo Ti. Name Fed Rtg  Pts 
1 2 GM Vachier-Lagrave Maxime FRA 2757 4.0
2 6 GM Tiviakov Sergei NED 2668 3.5
  11 GM Fridman Daniel GER 2635 3.5
  12 GM Marin Mihail ROU 2583 3.5
5 1 GM Adams Michael ENG 2758 3.0
  4 GM Sargissian Gabriel ARM 2690 3.0
  7 GM Jones Gawain C B ENG 2664 3.0
  8 GM Howell David W L ENG 2657 3.0
  9 GM Short Nigel D ENG 2646 3.0
  16 IM Hawkins Jonathan ENG 2533 3.0
  17 GM Vaisser Anatoly FRA 2531 3.0
  20 GM Boruchovsky Avital ISR 2501 3.0
  30 GM Arkell Keith C ENG 2450 3.0
  31 IM Steinberg Nitzan ISR 2435 3.0
  38 FM Kobo Ori ISR 2380 3.0
16 3 GM Fressinet Laurent FRA 2713 2.5
  15 GM Hebden Mark L ENG 2540 2.5
  18 GM Harika Dronavalli IND 2528 2.5
  21 GM Popilski Gil ISR 2493 2.5
  22 IM Raznikov Danny ISR 2492 2.5
  25 IM Paehtz Elisabeth GER 2477 2.5
  28 IM Van Foreest Jorden NED 2455 2.5
  37 IM L'ami Alina ROU 2386 2.5

Report by Albert Silver and Fiona Steil-Antoni
Pictures by Alina L'Ami


The games are being broadcast live on the official web site and on the chess server If you are not a member you can download a free Playchess client there and get immediate access. You can also use ChessBase 12 or any of our Fritz compatible chess programs.

Born in the US, he grew up in Paris, France, where he completed his Baccalaureat, and after college moved to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He had a peak rating of 2240 FIDE, and was a key designer of Chess Assistant 6. In 2010 he joined the ChessBase family as an editor and writer at ChessBase News. He is also a passionate photographer with work appearing in numerous publications, and the content creator of the YouTube channel, Chess & Tech.


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